Setting intentions for a life with meaning


This is a time of year when many people realize that their life needs a different direction. Often, this results in a flurry of resolutions to lose weight, get a new job or find a new relationship. People jump into these changes, but many become disillusioned when things don’t progress as quickly as they had hoped. 

​Before you head down that road, consider this: The act of setting direction for your life can’t just happen once a year. It is a lifelong process that unfolds each day. Life is not shaped by short-term sprints toward something outside of yourself, but by setting intentions, which are conscious shifts in the way you approach life.

Take the popular New Year’s goal to lose weight as an example. People who resolve to go on a diet usually deprive themselves for a time with the idea that they can go back to their old ways when they reach their desired weight. But if you set an intention to eat in a more healthful way so your body can reach its natural weight, you can approach this goal gradually with self-love. You might begin by cooking more, eating out less, avoiding overeating, balancing augmenting and extractive foods or rethinking the concept of dessert. These are daily practices that offer an opportunity for greater consciousness in how you eat. Each meal becomes a time to check in with your intentions and evaluate the outcomes. 

​Be clear about what you want

Life works best when you give it direction that is aligned with your truth. Otherwise, you are just wandering. Become an active creator of your life by being conscious of how your actions shape your experiences. This is what allows you to resolve karmas and move toward moksha, liberation or mastery in life. 

Just as you would check a map before you start driving, check in with your personal roadmap every so often. The New Year’s beginnings and our natural tendency toward inward reflection during winter make this a great time for a deeper examination of all you hope to do. But don’t make an intention just because you think it’s the right thing to do. Get clear on what you want first. This means moving out other people’s intentions for your life and releasing outdated ideas about what you used to want. 

Daily meditation is a good way to step away from external distractions to figure out what you really want out of life (and if your intention is to start meditating daily, this takes care of it!). Make the practice simple: find a quiet, comfortable spot and close your eyes for at least five minutes. Don’t try to solve any problems or do anything; just use the time to experience whatever happens -- don’t run toward or away from it. Meditate with consistency and you will begin to unlock a deeper understanding of who you really are. You’ll soon see what your higher self truly wants, and become more willing to release the things that aren’t important. 

When you are clear on an intention, write it down and visualize it as if it has already happened. In your mind’s eye, place yourself in this new aspect. See what it looks like. Feel your emotional state as a result of this shift. Even if it does not seem real or possible at that moment, acknowledge your ability to experience what you desire. 

As you go through this exercise, pay attention to any emotions, attachments or expectations that arise. Release them by creating a rose about 18 inches in front of you and placing in it anything that has become lit up by seeing this intention come to life. Release the energy by tossing a little bomb at the rose or lighting a match beneath it. Repeat this practice until you have let go of any charge or attachment to the outcome.

​Perfection is unattainable

How many times have you set an intention and become frustrated when it didn’t meet your exact specifications? Too often, we fail to see that the delivery of what we asked for is a divine gift, even if it did not match our expectations. 

Setting an intention does not mean that you get to control every detail of the outcome. It is a lot like planting a garden: you put the seed in the ground and give it the nourishment it needs. Sometimes the seed turns into a beautiful plant. Sometimes it doesn’t have the right conditions to flourish. Other times, the plant grows in a way that you had not anticipated. And at some point, all plants need pruning.

Trying to control the outcome of an intention is a sign that you are living in self will. Create your intention and hold it in your hand gently as if it were a feather. Don’t cling to it, and don’t let it fall to the wind. By doing so, you will release roadblocks to enjoying a fulfilling -- and sometimes surprising -- life. 

​Uncover the divine within

If you set only one intention this year, let it be to connect with the divine within. Turn your focus away from things outside of you -- the adornments to your body and life that are so often what people focus on with resolutions -- and look inward instead. With regular meditation, pranayama and grounding poses, like forward folds in your Yoga asana practice, you’ll move naturally toward the God of your heart. When the beauty of your spirits shines through, you’ll see that there is nothing in you that needs to be improved, just more of the divine to be uncovered. 

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